Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Lampooning Jason Kenney

Artists use film, performance art to critique Canada's immigration minister

Citizen Kenney: A Love Letter in 3 Parts is a trilogy of short films produced in response to recent actions taken by Jason Kenney, Canada’s minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism.
The films are the product of Bambitchell, the duo Sharlene Bamboat and Alexis Mitchell, who have been collaborating to produce video art since 2007.
Bamboat and Mitchell say their Nov 23 launch of Citizen Kenney promises to be a critical and campy tribute to Kenney that features other queer artists and activists expressing outrage and insult through music, video and performance, followed by a sweaty, dirty dance party.
“We have attempted to add another layer to the discourse that already exists surrounding Jason Kenney, to present it in a humorous manner, and to queer the presentation of the criticism of immigration policies and the homo-nationalist agenda of the current Canadian government,” Mitchell says.
They made the short yet powerful Queen of Canada in December 2011 as a response to Kenney’s racist and misogynist attempt to ban face coverings for women taking the Canadian citizenship oath. It went viral and screened at several festivals, which inspired more. Queen of Israel is a criticism of Haifa University’s presentation of an honorary doctorate of philosophy to Kenney on Nov 4 for his steadfast defence of the state of Israel, a country that has been criticized for its human rights abuses against Palestinians and international refugees.
In September, some members of Canada’s queer community received an email from Kenney about his work to support gay Iranians. But Mitchell says Kenney’s tactics did not fool many. Queen of Queers is about Kenney’s attempt to butter up the queer community while simultaneously diminishing the rights of immigrants and refugees in Canada and around the world.
These acts all instigated organized dialogue and critique of Kenney’s policies in the form of response letters, protests and, of course, art.
“Work like this is usually seen at festivals or in art spaces; we wanted to facilitate an event where people can engage with the work, in a political and social context,” Bamboat says. “So we brought together some of the artist/activists who are already looking at issues of queerness, migration and neo-conservatism with the hopes of broadening the dialogue to a larger group of people.”
The event will also include performances by Roy Mitchell, Casey Mecija, Francisco-Fernando Granados, Cressida Kocienski and DJ Mama Knows.



Queen of Canada, from alexis mitchell on Vimeo.